[Footnote 12: Bughts = sheep-pens.] [Footnote 13: Leglin = milk-pail.] [Footnote 14 Lyart = grizzled.] [Footnote 15: Fleeching = coaxing.]
TALES AND LEGENDS.
Northumberland, as might be guessed from its wild history, is rich in tales of daring and stories of gallant deeds; there are true tales, as well as legendary ones, which latter, after all, may be true in substance though not in detail, in spirit and possibility though not in a certain sequence of facts. Now-a-days we look upon dragons as fabulous animals, and stories of the destruction they wrought, their fierceness and their might are dismissed with a smile, and mentally relegated to a place amongst the fairy tales that delighted our childhood’s days, when the idea of belief or disbelief simply did not enter the question. Yet what are the dragon stories but faint memories of those gigantic and fearsome beasts which roamed the earth in the “dim, red dawn of man”—their names, as we read the labels on their skeletons in our museums, being now the most fearsome things about them! No one can deny that the ichthyosaurus, plesiosaurus, and all the rest of their tribe did exist; and were they to be encountered in these days would spread the same terror around, and find man almost as helpless before them as did any fierce dragon of the fairy tales. That part of the legends, therefore, has its foundation in fact; though from the nature of the case, we certainly do not possess an authenticated account of any particular contest between primitive man and one of these gigantic creatures. That oldest Northumbrian poem, however, the “Beowulf,” chants the praises of its hero’s prowess in encounters of the kind; and the north-country still has its legends of the Sockburn Worm, the Lambton Worm, and the “Laidly” Worm of Spindleston Heugh, the two first having their venue in Durham, and the last in Northumberland. The Spindlestone, a high crag not far from Bamburgh, and Bamburgh Castle itself, form the scene of this well-known legend. The fair Princess Margaret, daughter of the King of Bamburgh was turned into a “laidly worm” (loathly or loathsome serpent) by her wicked stepmother, who was jealous of the lovely maid. The whole district was in terror of this dreadful monster, which desolated the country-side in its search for food.
“For seven miles east and seven
And seven miles north and south,
No blade of grass or corn would grow,
So deadly was her mouth.
The milk of seven streakit cows
It was her cost to kepe,
They brought her dayly, whyche she drank
Before she wente to slepe.”
This offering proved successful in pacifying the creature, and it remained in the cave at Spindleston, coming out daily to drink its fill from the trough prepared for it. But the fear of it in no wise diminished, and